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High methane levels close blast-affected sawmill in Canada

25 June 2012

Methane gas detected in a soil sample from its Lakeland Mills sawmill has prompted the Sinclar Group to suspend operations of the planer mill and mill energy system at the sawmill in Prince George, British Columbia. An explosion killed two workers and injured two dozen others at the sawmill on April 24.

Sinclar Group president Greg Stewart announcing the closure of the sawmill
Sinclar Group president Greg Stewart announcing the closure of the sawmill

Sinclar Group president Greg Stewart said on June 22 that tests had detected the methane and prompted a shutdown of the recently reopened planer mill and closure of the mill energy system, which provides heat to some area businesses.

Twenty-eight planer mill employees, who have only been back to their jobs since late May following the April blast, are out of work again, he said. "The events of the past two months have been a extremely difficult time ... Re-opening the planer mill was a silver lining on a very dark cloud."

Stewart said WorkSafe B.C. had been notified, as well as the city and fire department, adding that the methane discovery did not pose a danger to people nearby. He said the company had been conducting soil and air tests since the explosion, and that no methane has been discovered in air samples.

The B.C. government ordered all sawmills in the province to undergo extensive dust cleanups after speculation arose that fine dust associated with milling pine beetle-killed wood could have caused the explosion at Prince George, and the January blast at the Babine Forest Products sawmill in Burns Lake, where two workers also died.

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